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Prof. Dr. Daniel Weihs

Prof. Dr. Daniel Weihs and Morley Blankstein,Chair of the Canadian Technion Society



by Rhonda J. Prepes, P. Eng. August 29, 2010

Distinguished Technion Professor Dr. Daniel Weihs  told an audience of about 115 people at the Berney Theatre here that the Technion has been involved in developing robots and other systems that are being used by the Israeli military to determine the location of landmines, enable planes to fly unmanned and  in the future could even evacuate wounded from combat zones.

Over the years, Prof. Weihs, a former pilot in the Israeli Air Force, liasoned with industry and academia to experiment with robotics. He later became the first professor of Aeronautical Engineering at the Technion and is now one of the world’s foremost experts in aerodynamics, biological fluid mechanics, hydrodynamics, and space research. 

In his lecture, Prof. Weihs discussed current robotic systems research and development at the Technion. He defined autonomous systems "as machines that can adapt their own course of action while operating under unexpected and uncertain environments. The objective is to construct fully independent robots that can think and act on their own."

As he outlined, the main focus areas of research in autonomous systems are:


According to Weihs, after studying air combat tactics, the Israeli Air Force found that the liming factor in protecting and attacking enemies by air was "pilot fatigue." Research began into unmanned aircraft in 1974 and since then, the Technion has discovered the technology for airplanes to fly without pilots. This will "greatly reduce pilot death during combat and the risk of pilots being taken as prisoners." In association with the Israeli Air Force, the Technion is experimenting and perfecting pilotless aircrafts. 

 Weihs himself has studied the flight mechanism of certain birds to find ways to improve piloted and unmanned aerial vehicle performance.


Weihs explained that unmanned tanks have been developed to determine" the location of landmines and remove them before they can explode and injure humans." Theses unmanned tanks can also break through walls for sudden ambushes. Research is ongoing on a “Snake Robot” that moves and looks much like a real snake only larger. According to Weihs, this Snake Robot  was designed "to enter collapsed buildings and search for survivors." It has a camera in its head and an infrared sensor to sense heat or “live” human beings. The Technion is also testing out a robotic motorcycle which is capable of driving solely by remote.


A robot called “Spine Assist” has been built to help surgeons with delicate spine surgery. It is now manufactured by an Israeli company and is being exported world-wide. " They have also created a tiny nano robot that is able to position itself in the human body and perform medical manipulations," Weihs said. 


Weih's outlined how these robots and autonomous systems could take the place of health care workers. They are designing a shirt that can take vital sign measurements, EEG, ECG, blood pressure and test blood. Like a nurse, this shirt collects the data, analyzes it, and decides the next course of action.

Robotic systems have been invented to assist in the management, monitoring and direction of air traffic control, power grid control for electrical supply and stock market trading systems.

Prof. Weihs also discussed upcoming projects that the Technion has planned for the future. These projects include a robot to evacuate wounded from combat zones called Robomedic; Autocare, a robot caretaker for invalids and infirms; Autosome, a managerial and clerical robot; and miniature flying vehicles called Autobugs.

Weihs said that in conducting research he has been motivated over the years by a quote from Albert Einstein who said, “Look deep into nature and then you will better understand everything better.”

Weihs's philosophy is to try to  adapt the principles of natural phenomenon into high tech research that he conducts.

Weihs's observations of dandelions led to the development of nano-sized parachutes that can detect toxins in the air. As he explained, these nano fibres float like dandelion seeds and could save thousands of lives by sensing and reporting pathogens in the air in a biological or chemical attack. The nano fibres that come in contact with the gas change colour, whereas those that  don’t come into contact with gas stay the same colour.  Therefore, from a distance  an observer can see the size and shape of the noxious gas cloud.  As Weihs noted,these nano fibres " will also hover and move with the cloud as the cloud moves."

Weihs's  study of  fish has improved submarine design and also helped prevent dolphins from being destroyed in the drift net fishing of the tuna industry. 

 While in Winnipeg,from Tuesday, August 24 to Thursday, August 26, Weihs was  welcomed by Morley and Marjorie Blankstein. Morley is the Chair of the Board of the Canadian Technion Society and the president of the Winnipeg Chapter. Prof. Weihs also attended a breakfast at the home of Gavin Rich, a new member of the Canadian Friends of the Technion Society;  and met with a number of MLA’s.  Premier Greg Selinger; David Chomiak, the Minister of Innovation, Energy and Mines, and his Deputy Minister and Christine Melnick, the Minister of Water Stewardship accepted Weiss’s invitation to visit the Technion while they are on the Mission to Israe this upcoming October  with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

Morley Blankstein said, “We are pleased to have Prof. Weihs speak in Winnipeg. He is an expert in his field and an excellent speaker. The Technion is not just an important institute in Israel; it is a world class educational establishment whose influence in the future of science and technology is felt world-wide.”

Weihs was introduced by Stephen Schipper, artistic director of the  Manitoba Theatre Centre,  who is a national board member of the Canadian Technion Society.

The Technion is ranked among the top 25 technology institutes in the world. The Technion has a reputation for cutting-edge research and groundbreaking technologies and is recognized as a leading international center for innovation in high-tech, biotechnology, and civil and environmental engineering. It enjoys a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology and medicine.

The Technion or the Israel Institute of Technology was founded in 1924 and was the first University in Israel. The Technion is one of only five universities in the world with a student program to design, build, and launch satellites. The faculty and students at the Technion have been responsible for many leading innovations and discoveries including conceiving the algorithm that initiated the development of the World Wide Web, formulating the only medicine that slows the progress of Parkinson’s disease, and originating revolutionary stem cell technology and nanotechnology, the engineering of functional systems at the molecular level.

The next event planned by the Friends of the Technion Society is tentatively on November 26, 2010 where Dr. Victor Chernov will be speaking. Dr. Chernov is an Industrial Aerospace Engineer at the Technion experimenting with rocket fuels and building rockets to defend the state of Israel.

Rhonda Prepes is an engineer who teaches at Red River College.

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